May 21, 2012

Statins Prevent Cancer in Heart Transplant Recipients

(Ivanhoe Newswire) - Cancer is the leading cause of death late after heart transplantation. Now, new research shows that statins, immunomondulatory drugs, may benefit patients beyond their lipid lowering effects.

Researchers in Zurich are currently investigating the impact of statin therapy on the occurrence of cancer and death from causes in heart transplantation recipients. They found the increased rate of cancer in heart transplant recipients may be related to the immune suppression of the patient, and statins can prevent cancer and reduce death from all causes in heart transplant recipients. These findings were independent of cholesterol levels.

The study included all 255 patients who underwent heart transplantation at the University Hospital Zurich in Switzerland between 1985 and 2007 and were alive after the first year. The study discovered that cancer was diagnosed in 108 patients (42%). Statins reduced the risk of any cancer by 65%. Eight years after transplantation, 34% of patients who did not receive a statin had incidence of tumours, compared to 13% of patients who did receive a statin. This benefit continued even at the 10 and 12 year marks.

The benefits of statins preventing cancer and reducing deaths were independent of patients' cholesterol level, which suggests the result was due to their immunomodulatory effects.

"We have shown that statin therapy prevents cancer in heart transplant recipients and it is known that statins also prevent graft atherosclerosis," Dr. Frank Enseleit, lead author of the study and deputy director of heart failure and transplantation at University Hospital Zurich, was quoted saying.

He says patients can safely begin statin therapy six months after transplantation and they should take the drug for the rest of their lives.

SOURCE: European Society of Cardiology, May 2012